If consumers knew how hard life is for dairy cows, even on farms run with the kindest of intentions, they would be more willing to pay extra to take the pressure off farmers. Actually, if this information was disseminated widely many people would give up milk entirely. And probably stop eating veal.
Although animals raised for the beef industry are also subject to an unnatural lifestyle, if all goes well they only have one really bad day rather than suffering through an ongoing series of indignities and injuries.
The root cause of welfare issues on dairy farms is economic pressure. Most dairy farmers are caught between the bank and the supermarket. If the retail price of milk doesn't support the expense of operation, farmers have to endure the cost themselves.
Farmers, their families and their workers aren't immune to of the condition of their animals.They get into this industry because they are animal focused.The common business model for dairies in this area is ownership and operation by people who grew up on farms.
No farmer has a business plan that includes "be mean to cows and passers by".
The daily plan starts with plant maintenance, vehicle repairs, dam and pipe inspection, fence repairs, track construction, grain supply, hay distribution, weed control, calf rearing, animal husbandry and movement of herds before hopping onto the quaddie to get the milkers.
In summer they're out there with the flies and the dust. In winter they're in the dark. The paddocks get boggy and the cows go missing. No one plans to have a calf disappear through a fresh gap in a fence. No one wants to have a cow slip over or get its head stuck between safety rails. Or calve on the side of a road.
Farmers don't want to treat their animals poorly; they can be as traumatised as other people by injury to their animals. In the heat of the moment they have to make an economic decision as well as trying to do the right thing for the animal and keep themselves safe.
There's a psychological impact on owners and operators. Sleep deprivation is just the starting point. There's also a physical toll.
If you live your life in gumboots you can't afford a day off. Been kicked, or squashed or stepped on by a 700-kilogram milker? Soldier on! All those "minor" bruises and aches and pains add up over the years.
If you see someone limping around town, they could be one of the two-legged victims of low milk retail prices.